ONLY title-chasing Chelsea have now conceded fewer league goals than York City from English football’s top four divisions during 2014.
Following Saturday’s goalless stalemate with fellow play-off hopefuls Burton, ten hours of football have been played since the miserly Minstermen were last breached.
A sixth successive shut-out – two short of a club record – also means Nigel Worthington’s side have still shipped only seven times in 17 fixtures since New Year’s Day.
Jose Mourinho’s European hopefuls have let in five during the corresponding period but have the benefit of having played four fewer league games than the boys from Bootham Crescent.
While the petulant Portuguese could also call upon £29.5 million worth of goalkeeping and defensive talent, boasting 280 caps between them, for Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace, Worthington’s increasingly impressive back five has been moulded from unwanted lower-league journeymen, untried youngsters and a free transfer signing from Histon.
Centre-halves Keith Lowe and John McCombe continue to make a mockery of Cheltenham and Mansfield’s respective decisions to offload them, while Lanre Oyebanjo’s form has made him the only surviving member of the 2012 promotion-winning squad to feature during the last two months.
Fellow full-back Ben Davies, meanwhile, has become one of the side’s most reliable performers at the age of 18 and, with the passing of every game, it becomes more and more difficult to believe that on-loan Charlton shot-stopper Nick Pope had never played at Football League level prior to his first debut for the Minstermen in November.
Pope was the busier keeper during Saturday’s contest and responded with one fine reflex save and several others that he made look routine due to his anticipation and ability to catch well-struck shots so cleanly.
Since being teamed together for the first time at Fleetwood in February, Pope and his back four have not conceded a single goal in open play during 16-and-a-half hours of football.
Scrambled efforts from Exeter’s Scot Bennett and Mikael Mandron for Fleetwood, converted from a corner and free-kick respectively, remain the only goals scored against City during the last 11 matches.
It is a record that is, unarguably, the chief reason behind the Minstermen’s transformation from relegation strugglers at the turn of the year into play-off hopefuls with six fixtures left to play.
An analysis of fortunes at the other end of the pitch revealingly uncovers that Worthington’s men actually scored one more goal during the last 17 matches of the old calendar year than they have managed so far during 2014.
The side were certainly not at their most potent against a resolute Burton team who, nevertheless, worked hard to block a number of home efforts.
Ryan Bowman’s eight-yard shot on the turn called away keeper Rob Lainton into his only save of the afternoon on the stroke of half-time and the City forward has now failed to net in open play for 18 hours.
He was replaced just past the hour by Calvin Andrew who made his presence felt but has only managed a solitary goal in each of the last four seasons.
Fellow substitute Ryan Jarvis, meanwhile, has not hit the target since New Year’s Day and it remains too early in Michael Coulson’s conversion into a centre forward to ascertain whether he can switch from being a scorer of great goals to a great goal scorer.
In the absence of crocked leading marksman Wes Fletcher, there is certainly an onus on all four players to provide more goals and ease some of the responsibility on their team-mates to carry on keeping clean sheets if City are to maintain their play-off push.
Having wing wizard Ryan Brobbel back in tow, following his loan return from Middlesbrough, should provide them with sufficient ammunition.
Coulson might have done better on eight minutes when he bore down on Rob Lainton’s goal after Phil Edwards had misjudged Lowe’s long diagonal ball out of defence.
The former Grimsby and Barnsley attacker went on to skip round Lainton after he had rushed out to the edge of the box but delayed his shot long enough for Brewers skipper Lee Bell to eventually get in the way of his goalbound effort.
Burton imposed themselves on proceedings soon after with Adam McGurk lifting a near-post chance over from Callum McFadzean’s corner.
Edwards also missed the target with a couple of headers and McFadzean’s rising 15-yard attempt forced the first save of the afternoon from Pope on 29 minutes.
A firm, long-range strike from Bell was then plucked out of the air confidently by Pope before McCombe headed over from a Will Hayhurst corner for City.
Two fine efforts from Billy Kee followed – the first an ambitious 40-yard lob that bounced wide after he spotted Pope of his line and the second an excellent chest and volley strike from 25 yards that bounced off the top of the crossbar.
City rallied, though, before the break with Coulson curling a free-kick wide and Bowman’s shot saved down at his feet by Lainton.
Six minutes after the restart, Pope was called back into action to keep out Ian Sharps’ near-post header from Matty Palmer’s corner.
His smartest save followed just before the hour mark when Palmer charged on to a Kee through ball but his low eight-yard drive was parried by Pope, who also recovered to prevent the ball spinning back over his line.
The hosts responded with an off-target, edge-of-the-box volley by Adam Reed and Lowe’s header back across the face of goal from Brobbel’s left-wing free-kick.
But McFadzean drove narrowly wide for the visitors and was denied by another near-post Pope stop after Edwards had headed wide from his corner.
The last opportunity of the game saw McCombe’s speculative 35-yard half-volley drift wide in stoppage time and City finished the match satisfied with a share of the spoils and an 18th clean sheet of the season.
Nick Pope: Immaculate handling, vital save when Palmer burst through. 8
Lanre Oyebanjo: Struggled with his distribution in first half, but solid otherwise. 7
Keith Lowe: Organised the back line in typical fashion. 8
John McCombe: STAR MAN - came out on top in his physical battles. 8
Ben Davies: Rarely troubled, went about business in unfussy fashion. 7
Ryan Brobbel: Tricked his way to the byline, just needed a bit more care with final ball. 7
Russell Penn: Purposeful and in the thick of the action throughout. 8
Adam Reed: Competed well, some of his long passes deserved better reward. 7
Will Hayhurst: Dangerous from dead balls but not always in open play. 6
Ryan Bowman: Held the ball up effectively but did not trouble the opposition goal. 6
Michael Coulson: Kept plugging away but Burton snuffed out his threat. 7
Subs: Calvin Andrew 7 – bright (for Bowman, 61), Ryan Jarvis 6 – quiet (for Hayhurst, 68). Not used: Platt, Montrose, McGurk, Ingham, Puri.
Rob Lainton, Phil Edwards, Ian Sharps, Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, Damien Mc- Crory, David Gray, Matty Palmer, Lee Bell, Callum McFadzean (Ashley Hemmings, 80), Adam McGurk (Alex MacDonald, 83), Billy Kee (Gary Alexander, 73). Subs not used: Dean Lyness, Jimmy Phillips, Dominic Knowles, Marcus Holness.
Burton star man: Kee – always threatens against the Minstermen.
Referee: Darren Deadman (Peterborough). Rating: 7/10 – decisive and moved well around the pitch.
Booked: Gray 56, Penn 80, McCombe 84.
Attendance: 3,988 (341 from Burton).
Shots on target: City 1, Burton 9.
Shots off target: City 7, Burton 6.
Corners: City 5, Burton 6.
Fouls conceded: City 10, Burton 9.
Offsides: City 0, Burton 3.